Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles Sparks have dealt with some woes over the last few weeks. With three key players out, their four game home stand has proven to be crucial to start thinking about positioning for the playoffs. Instead of worrying about losing their starters and struggle with chemistry, they have shown that they can be deadly with whoever is on the court. Even with Candace Parker’s team high 21 points, it was overshadowed by a complete team effort, combining for 23 assists and seeing the entire team that dressed snag at least a field goal in an 83-75 win that could arguably be their most dominant win of the year.
“We played really well in transition throughout the game,” Nneka Ogwumike said. “The assists that come from the hands of many of our players, especially from Chelsea Gray, we had a really good grip of moving the ball.”
Chiney Ogwumike and Alana Beard still sat out with their injuries, but it didn’t seem to matter when the Sparks offense flowed to near perfection the entire game. They led by as many as 17 all contributed to strong movement of the basketball.
The first half had the Sparks in control, but the Storm was not letting up keeping the game within reach throughout the first 16 minutes. Seattle went on a cold spell for the final four minutes, only draining a three from Sami Whitcomb in the final seconds. This gave the Sparks a chance to pull away in the closing minutes, led by Chelsea Gray’s trifecta of assists that put her team ahead by nine at halftime.
“With it being neck and neck in the first half, Chelsea is really smart at moving the basketball,” Nneka said. “We just try to make her job easy and be ready for her to help relieve the pressure she faces when she moves the ball.”
Los Angeles pulled away returning from the break. Coming off the bench Maria Vadeeva scored eight of her 14 points, all of which were the final points of the quarter, that pushed the Sparks ahead by double digits. Marina Mabrey added some flex in the fourth quarter scoring six of her ten points that suddenly have the Sparks feeling great, even if they have been playing short handed.
Nneka Ogwumike had 13 points. Gray added 10 points along with her eight assists. Alysha Clark and Sami Whitcomb off the bench led the Storm with 16 points.
The Phoenix Mercury come to town Thursday, another potential playoff contender. While it is too early to talk playoffs, the Sparks do know the importance of beating perennial opponents to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
“We approach each game individually, but that doesn’t mean we are thinking about positioning,” Nneka said. “Obviously we are coming closer to the playoffs, but every game is different. We aren’t looking ahead but we do know every game we face is important to us.”